Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Fading Forest

Chronology of Events at the Sungai Buloh Forest Reserve

The Star

Jan 14, 1898

The colonial government gazetted an area of 6,590ha under Article 6 of the Selangor Land Enactment 1897 as Sungai Buloh Forest Reserve for public purposes of ensuring accessible sources of wood.


Gazetting of the Selangor Forest Enactment (18/1907) and the forest reserve falls under State Forestry Department.


A tree nursery and a Forestry Department training centre was established in the north of the forest reserve.


Forest Reserve Research Institute (FRIM) set up a number of long-term research plots to study the dynamics of tropical rain forest ecology.


About half of the original reserve had been excised for agriculture.


The entire eastern edge of the area was cleared for the North-South Highway.


One thousand six hundredd (1,600) hectors of the forest were given to PKNS for Kota Damansara township (originally named Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh Jaya).


Kota Damansara township launched with theme Living in Harmony with the Environment.

21 Dec, 1993

State Government excised about four hundred and three (403) hectors from the forest reserve for botanical garden

3 Feb, 1994

State Government reserved the area under Sect 62 (1) of the National Land Code for the public purpose of a Botanical Garden to be maintained by the state government.


Federal Government allocated RM125mil to the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MARDI) for the National Botanical Garden under the Eighth Malaysian Plan (2001-2005).


Federal Government decided to shift the National Botanical Garden to Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve in Shah Alam.

May 2002

The development proposals for the above parcel of land was published. Residents protested.

March 2004

State Government promised that the land would be left as Taman Botani

17 June, 2004

State Government published its intention to revoke about fifty nine (59) hectors of the Taman Botani to the east of the highway for a Muslim cemetery.

March 2006 – Friends of Kota Damansara (FOKD) produced guidebook entitled “A Step Beyond the City”.

Dec 2006 – State Exco member said the area to the east of highway too rocky and is unsuitable for cemetery and approved fifty (50) hectors of Taman Botani for the purpose.

March 2007 – Earthworks on the cemetery starts.

Oct 2007 – Federal Cabinet approved RM141mil for the site to be developed over five-year period.

Dec 2007 – the Draft Petaling Jaya Local Plan 2020 was published, zoning more of Taman Botani for residential development with a small area for recreation (inclusive of the cemetery area).

Sg. Buloh Forest Reserve Slowly Diminshing

Forty Hectors of Forest Earmarked for Development

The Star

THE recently published PJ Local Draft Plan 2 (RTPJ2) has stated that about 40ha of forested area in Kota Damansara, which is part of the Sungai Buloh Forest Reserve, will be turned into a recreational area. This includes the land that has been developed into a Muslim cemetery. It leaves only 26.9ha as the forest reserve. The rest would make way for development, including residential housing.

Residents' group “Friends of Kota Damansara” (FOKD) chairman Leong Kam Heng, who has been living in Kota Damansara for six years, said the development plans were robbing the public of an important green area in the Klang Valley.

“We have been fighting to save what is left of the forest and now even the small piece of what is left has been earmarked for further development.

“What is there that is left for us,” he asked.

Leong, who heads the group comprising representatives of Kota Damansara Residents Associations, has been going all out to save what is left of the forest.

The group together with the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) as adviser have started a campaign to preserve part of the forest, which they have dubbed as the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park.

They even managed to obtain RM380,000 from the United Nations Development Programme through its Small Grants Programme towards efforts to establish the park.

Now the facilities and the park itself is being used by other people besides the residents. School children and corporate bodies also conduct activities there.

Friends of Kota Damansara and MNS have also been lobbying for the Selangor State Government to maintain the green area as a forest reserve.

“We even received a letter from the Town and Country Planning, Peninsular Malaysia director, stating that any plan to develop part of the forest had been shelved in favour of preserving a forest reserve.

“But now the local council has published plans for development,” Leong said.

Former MNS president and adviser to Friends of Kota Damasara, Datuk Dr Salleh Mohd Nor believes the reversed decision was motivated by greed.

“It is sheer arrogance and unprincipled.

“And we are here with the residents all the way, to fight for the forest,” he said.

Another affected resident, Zainuddin Mohd Tahir, said as a developed state, Selangor should be an example to other states, including on how it manages and maintains its green lungs.

He said the green area should not be sacrificed in the name of development and deprive future generations from enjoying them.

“We are not doing this for ourselves but for all as we are talking about the only green lung in Petaling Jaya,'' he added.

Zainuddin, who is also the president of Kota Damansara Section 7 Residents Association, said developing the area would only be opening a floodgate of problems. It would not only lead to potential social problems but higher traffic volume to the area as well.

The forest is still largely covered by rich lowland forest dominated by meranti-keruing trees, some of which are more than 100 years old, said MNS executive director Dr Loh Chi Leong.

He said the forest is also rich in wildlife, including 227 species of birds such as black bellied malkohas, crested serpent eagles, kingfishers, broadbills, dollar birds and possibly even the rare argus pheasant. Eight species of mammals and 25 species of reptiles are also found in the area.

A Zoo Negara team also found the aquatic plant Cryptocoryne minima growing in a swamp in the forest.

“Yet MBPJ no longer recognises Sg Buloh Forest as a forest area,” said Loh.

He added that opening the forest area would further expose the surrounding areas of PJU1 to PJU5 (Damansara Damai, Kota Damansara, Dataran Sunway) to worse flood problems.

MNS also believes that there are discrepancies in the RTPJ2 report. At one point the report stated that the forest is an important natural ecological area and should be retained in its role as a water catchment area and would serve to mitigate floods and soil erosion (section 7.2.2).

However, the same report provides guidelines for development of the area.

“MNS will maintain and defend our stand that the Sungai Buloh Forest Reserve should be preserved and protected from development.

“Its role as a green lung and sanctuary for biodiversity should be retained, as its loss will greatly impact society,” said Loh.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Changing Landscape

The green on both sides of Jalan Sungai Buloh is slowly fading. The jungle is being transformed into concrete structures. More recently, the long stretch of rubber trees on the RRIM reserve land were felled to make way for a wider road. The Kota Damansara development has already eaten into the pristine forest. One can no longer ignore the changing landscape, but will the state government act to protect some forest for the next generation?